During an asthma attack, your airways narrow, making it harder to breathe and get enough oxygen to your lungs. You may also have symptoms like chest pain, coughing, and wheezing. Your air passages can become so inflamed that you need urgent care at a hospital.
An asthma attack can be a frightening experience. It can take days — or even weeks — to fully recover.
If you’ve ever had an attack, the thought of having another one can be frightening. Taking some time for yourself after an asthma attack can help you recover — and possibly lower your risk of having another one.
1. Prevent another attack
Once you’ve gotten past the emergency stage, you can start thinking about getting well again. The most important thing is to take your medicine exactly as your doctor prescribed to prevent another attack.
If severe asthma attacks are becoming a pattern for you, consider meeting with your doctor to re-evaluate your treatment plan. You might need to increase the dose of your current medicine or add a new one to prevent future flare-ups.
Once you’ve adjusted your treatment plan, stick with it. Let your doctor know if you experience any new or worsening symptoms.
2. Get plenty of rest
A severe asthma attack can be serious. Afterward, you need time to rest and recuperate.
Stay home and relax for a few days. Don’t go back to work until you feel up to it — and your doctor says you’re ready.
Put chores and other responsibilities on the back burner. Ask friends and family to help out with shopping, cooking, and cleaning until you feel ready to get back into your routine.
3. Sleep well
Asthma is a sleep disruptor; an asthma attack can throw your sleep cycle out of whack. It’s hard to get any rest when you’re wheezing and coughing.
Using your inhaler can help prevent symptoms, but asthma medicines might also keep you awake. If your asthma medication is affecting your sleep, ask your doctor if you can take it earlier in the day.
Allergy triggers in your bedroom can also set off symptoms. Wash your bedding in hot water and vacuum often to get rid of dust mites. Keep pets out of your bedroom — or at least make them sleep in their own bed.
- Diaphragmatic breathing. In this technique, you breathe from your diaphragm instead of from your chest. When you’re doing it correctly, your stomach should move out when you breathe, but not your chest. This will help slow your breathing and reduce your body’s need for oxygen.
- Nasal breathing. Breathing through your nose rather than your mouth adds warmth and humidity to the air, which can reduce asthma symptoms.
- Pursed lip breathing. This technique helps relieve shortness of breath. You breathe in slowly through your nose with your mouth open and then breathe out through pursed lips as if you were about to whistle.
- Buteyko breathing. This technique uses a series of exercises to teach you how to breathe more slowly and deeply.
Ask your doctor which breathing exercises are right for you and how to perform them correctly.
5. Eat to beat inflammation
No particular diet can prevent asthma symptoms, but eating healthy foods can help you feel better overall. If you’re overweight, losing a few pounds will give your lungs more room to expand.
At mealtimes, load up on fruits and vegetables. Plant-based foods are high in antioxidants like beta carotene and vitamins A and E, which may help combat inflammation in the lungs.
Also increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish like salmon and tuna, as well as in nuts and seeds. There is some evidence these foods might help cut down on asthma symptoms.
If you have sensitivities or allergies to particular foods, try to avoid them. Allergic reactions to food can trigger asthma symptoms.
6. Practice yoga
Exercise is a good way to strengthen your lungs and control your asthma symptoms. Plus, the slow, paced breathing you use when you practice yoga may help improve your asthma symptoms and lung function.
7. Get support
Having a severe asthma attack can be very upsetting. Even if your lungs recover quickly, your emotional state might remain fragile. If you’re feeling sad or anxious, see a psychologist or therapist. Or join a support group for people living with severe asthma.